Several Portlanders say they received a strange phone call last night: a recorded message asking how they planned to vote on fluoridating the water in Wichita, Kansas.
Four Portland residents tell WW they received the recorded call on Tuesday evening asking about fluoride.
Each of them says the robo-call began the same way: "On November 6, residents of Wichita will vote on whether or not to fluoridate our community water..."
Barbara Smith Warner, a Portland field representative for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), says the recorded call she received Tuesday went on to give arguments against fluoride.
"They had clearly, literally just taken the recording they had done in Wichita in November and sent it out to a bunch of 503 area-code numbers," Warner says. "It was so weird. What's the matter with Kansas?"
Voters in Wichita rejected fluoridation in a city vote last Nov. 6. As WW reported earlier this week, the Wichita campaign was spearheaded by real-estate developer James Garvey, who founded a group called Kansas Taxpayers Network to "represent Kansas taxpayers at the state and local level by advocating limited taxes and government spending to create a free market environment."
Garvey is also the largest donor to Clean Water Portland, the campaign against Portland's May 21 fluoridation ballot initiative. He's given $43,000 of the $190,000 that Clean Water Portland has raised.
Nearly half of Clean Water Portland's donations have come from outside Oregon, from a loosely organized coalition of anti-fluoride activists hailing from Illinois to Utah.
Clean Water Portland could not immediately be reached for comment.
UPDATE, 4:45 pm: Clean Water Portland executive director Kimberly Kaminski says the company that conducted last night's poll had also conducted a phone poll for Wichita's anti-fluoride campaign, and accidentally switched scripts.
"This was a mistake," Kaminski says, "but certainly not as much of a mistake as it would be for Portland to add fluoridation chemicals to our water."